Although I will be graduating from law school next month, I will not be taking the Bar exam. Nope, I won’t be participating in what most consider the necessary culmination of a legal education. It’s not because I don’t want to be a lawyer. It’s because I cannot afford it. We’re not talking registration fees like you saw with the SAT or even the LSAT. We’re talking Bar application, Bar review course, expenses associated with gathering information and background checks for your character & fitness application, and living expenses while you study for the exam. Ouch. If you read this blog, you know this isn’t the first time I’ve shared my frustration about the situation.
Usually, folks take out loans to finance this additional, but necessary portion of law school. However, with the financial crisis we’re in right now, even Bar Loans aren’t being offered like they used to. What’s a graduating law student to do? The Alliance for Legal Education has a smashing idea:
The Alliance for Legal Education is a coalition of law schools and other organizations in the legal community working to ensure that students who have invested in a legal education have the funding they need to prepare for the bar exam. The Alliance has proposed a solution: allow costs associated with preparing for the bar to be included in the cost of attendance, which would, in turn, make these costs eligible for federal student loans.
To effect this policy change, and to do so in time to help this year’s graduating law students, it is critical to contact legislators now to urge their support of this initiative. The Alliance has established a website at http://capwiz.com/allianceforlegaleducation where you can learn more about this initiative and use the online facility to contact your legislators about this issue.
You do not have to be a law student to encourage legislators to act. You just have to think it’s ridiculous that a person should have to take out private loans, charge up their credit cards or, do like I will and postpone the exam in order to work and save money. The cost of the Bar should be figured into the cost of attendance for law school, what makes more sense than that?
The online form is really easy and takes less than 2 minutes to fill in. Thanks a bunch!
17 responses to “Help some law students!”
Great post. I honestly thought by now there would be some jurisdiction that would waive or delay fees. Barbri has been getting away with a monopoly practically, there need to be more national alternatives. The market also sucks, so employment prospects are dismal. I wrote awhile back to inquire about you experiences (personal & professional) overseas, because that may become a real and more viable alternative until Feb. 2010.
Yeah, I thought about being overseas for a while, but really, I’m not excited about staying here in Japan in a much more permanent capacity. Besides, my language ability isn’t good enough to consider working here.
Still, I’m not totally foreclosed to the idea of working outside of the States. TBD.
no disrespect whatsoever, but…….
im not really sure how this personal goal became a public concern. when you go to law school isnt the normal expectation that you would need to take and pay for the bar exam at some point?
improper planning and sense of entitlement to a bailout is why the economy is where it is right now.
i do agree that it takes a village, but at what point does your business become YOUR business? no, you shouldnt have to take out a loan and no, you shouldnt have to charge up your credit cards. this should have been calculated into your total tuition expectation from day one.
im sure you did some interning while in school, so perhaps you can have that law firm or organization sponsor you in exchange for some pro bono work or simply as part of your salary package. when we hire attorneys here at my firm their bar exam fees are paid similar to how continuing education would be because it will benefit our company. i never thought anyone expected the country at large to fund their bar entry fees.
i sincerely wish you the best but i dont agree that it should come out of my pockets. it just sounds like a personal expense that all law students have been made well aware of.
i still think you’re cool tho. :-)
@ Bubblin’ brown Suga: I believe she is saying that private bar loans are currently being reduced/ not offered because of this economy versus years past.
The support that ALE is trying to gather pertains to bar registration fees being included into student loans-loans that most people take out in their own names via the federal government. This has nothing to do with your tax money-simply a new solution to an old problem.
Currently, firms are reducing overhead and costs. This includes hiring, CLE’s, even summer associate programs. With that said, it is unlikely that they will pay bar registration & fees when they are currently asking future associates to defer until September, with some firms asking associates to defer until 2010.
1. No one is looking for a handout. This isn’t money that would come from you. This money would come in a different type of loan form. Loans are still loans. However making the bar costs part of cost of attendance of overall legal education makes sense. Taking out federal loans is a more forgiving process than private loans. Additionally, students like myself who benefit from scholarships and grants can put that grant money towards bar costs.
2. Having your firm pay for the bar is great, for people working at firms. I, however, have an interest in working in what we call public interest legal careers. The organizations, municipal agencies, state/fed gov’ts who hire public interest lawyers do not have the money (now or before the economic slump) to pay for bar related costs. It sucks that the people who want to do the most good get stuck footing the entire bill.
Does that make it clearer?
What’s the approximate cost of the bar and all the other associated costs that you mentioned, i.e., rent, back ground check, etc.? Also, not to sound like a hater, hopefully as a voice of reason, would’t it have made more sense to spend the money you’re currently using for your trip on the bar and associated costs?
Dear Voice of Reason:
The cost of the bar varies depending on the state. A friend of mine recently paid to take the bar review course in ny and dropped $4,000.
As far as me being in Tokyo, I’m not spending extra money to be here. The tuition here is actually cheaper than the tuition I pay back in the states. Once you figure in cost of living, I’m paying the same to be in Tokyo for a semester as I would be in Philly. Basically, had I been in Philly, I would be in the same boat.
lol…….youre a smart cookie. im sure you can hustle up 4k by the end of summer without an economic bailout. dont just get one job, get two, hell get three. when i was in undergrad i had 3 jobs. one as an RA to pay my room and board, one in the office of academic support and one in the mall.
maybe you can be a translator out there and for some strange reason they are always willing to pay to learn “black american culture”.
come home and drive an ice cream truck—it pays 1000-1500 a week.
dont ever wait until the bill is already in your hand to try and figure out how it needs to be paid. otherwise, im going to need you to hand over your bourgie card.
taking out a loan for only 4k is not a wise investment at all. again, i do not agree that postponing until you work and save the money is a ridiculous notion.
I agree with all your points, bbs. I don’t know how busy law students are during the school year or if working while in law school is feasible but it seems strange that financial planning wasn’t done sooner.
Going into law school you know you need to take, and pass, the bar exam to maximize your career options. Also, didn’t a school dean warn LAR and other L3s about this a couple months ago? You wrote a post about it.
I don’t know you, LAPR, but financing the bar should have been one of your top priorities beginning day one of law school.
Just to put things into perspective, I am also a professional student, May 2009 graduation. In the middle of my schooling I found out that folks often needed emergency loans to finance final year interviews and relocation expenses. I didn’t see the point of relying on extra loan money so I planned ahead by saving and sacrificing. Now, despite the major financial crisis, I’m good to go.
Different stories. Different lives. Last bit, in my experience I have found if you’re making excuses you’re not making progress.
Hope it works out for you.
I can’t say that I disagree with any of your points. It would be applicable if people were looking for a bailout, but they’re not.
The way most law students plan to cover bar related costs is by taking out a Bar loan. That’s what the schools suggest, the financial aid officers, etc. It’s the most used option, actually. Second to that is having your firm pay for it.
So the bar loan is not a novel idea or a last minute idea. It is the way you pay for the bar.
All I’m saying is that I think it’s a good idea to have the option to take out a federal loan as opposed to a private loan.
I think anyone who has been to college knows that a federal loan is not a bailout.
My sis, an attorney, worked f/t going to Georgetown 4/nights a week. She traded a promotion on Capitol Hill to get Fridays off for the four years it took her to get through. So she had budgeted the $$$ to do multi-state bar exams which she passed on her 2nd go-round. Jesse Jackson said we as a people are into short term pleasure for long term pain, and need to reverse that. My sis’ short term pain was four years, but she’s been an attorney now for 20 years. I think more careful forethought and planning would help a young attorney since the bar is only one of many challenges a black atty will face. And didn’t the trip to Thailand cost big $$$?
I want to make it clear that I’m not defending myself as I don’t think it necessary but I am explaining some things…
No, the trip to Thailand did not cost big $$$. I am foregoing a lot of things while I am over here due to budget concerns and getting to experience some of the world was something I made sure I was going to be able to afford.
I’m happy for your sister and the other people who were able to save up for the bar. I worked during law school but that money paid bills or got sent back home to help out my family, concerns that many of my colleagues do not have.
I’m okay with not taking the bar this summer and putting it off until later. If I’m not on here asking for donations or for an AIG-type bonus, then I don’t see what the problem is. I’m actually NOT borrowing money/incurring more debt. How did that translate into misdirected priorities?
maybe you should be on here asking for donations– this way those who want to support you will do so directly and those who dont simply wont.
if we fill out the application today will you still be privy to whatever it would provide?
could you perhaps get a sponsor? i would hate to see you forfeit a whole year for 4,000 when there are lots of ways to get it.
Nah, that’s not really the point. It’s not just about me, I really think it’s better for everyone seeking a legal education to benefit from such legislation.
Plus it’s not just $4Gs. That’s just for one course. One usually borrows much more for the bar.
I’m not sweating the year. A lot of folks don’t ever take the bar or they take it a couple years later. I’m open to different career paths, especially since I don’t have a goal to be a typical law firm attorney. I’m kind of at peace with it all at this point and look forward to having the option to try something new. We’ll see!
I didn’t pass the first time, after taking a “bar loan” to pay for living expenses, the test, and the prep course. I’m still paying that bar loan back. As a first generation college grad, let alone attorney, I didn’t know how expensive it would be to get my licensure when I started law school. If I had known when I first started, maybe I could have saved money throughout those three years… but then again, because I couldn’t really work enough to save while I was in school…
It took me three years to have the time and the money to afford the bar exam and the prep course. And even then, I had to study part time for six months after working full time all day. I also got my employer to pay for the prep course – half up front and half when I passed. In the meantime, I worked as a paralegal/intern/document reviewer, etc. Besides clerking, that’s pretty much what JD’s can do.
This is an important issue, and it should be talked about. It affects the earning potential of law grads tremendously. For minority and low-income grads, this hurdle can perpetuate the economic achievement gap.
Thanks for sharing your experience.